Renee Fox: Hello, and welcome to Well Wisconsin Radio, a podcast discussing health and wellbeing topics with experts from around the state of Wisconsin. My name is Renee Fox. My guest today is Jody Brown, Vice President of Wealth Management with Summit Financial Advisors located at Summit Credit Union. I want to mention that she has received a national leadership honor recognized for 2019-2021 Woman on Distinction. Members of Women of Distinction were recognized by CBSI, the representative’s former broker-dealer, for networking and mentorship opportunities. Based on experience, GDC, performance with their investment program, and contributions to the industry “Woman of Distinction” award, which honors female financial advisors for their superior performance and extraordinary efforts in promoting financial security.
For being recognized as a Woman of Distinction, she has participated in a national mentoring program, giving back, and sharing resources with other female advisors in the industry. In her role at Summit Financial Advisors, she helps members promote goals through retirement planning, financial management, insurance, and wealth management. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you joining us for Well, Wisconsin Radio. I’m really happy to have you on this episode.
Jody Brown: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.
Renee Fox: You’re welcome. So, the pressure of spending money on holiday gifts, spending on parties and decorations can cause us a lot of stress. As we’re approaching the holidays it really can make this season a little less joyous. So, what are some things that we can do to avoid holiday overspending as we approach this time of year?
Jody Brown: That’s a great question, Renee, because I feel like it could be applied to our eating habits as well as our spending habits. So, I think we can all relate to that. And oftentimes when it comes to our spending habits, one of the words that I feel like gets a kind of a bad stereotype is the word budget. You know, it’s like a diet. When we talk about eating things, right, no one likes to hear that they’re on a diet. No one wants to hear that they’re on a budget. But I think that’s the number one thing that I come back to when we have the holidays approaching and we have such great hearts, wanting to give and give.
You know, how do we set ourselves up so that we can enjoy but not regret? And so, if you look at it as either for the season, this is how much I’m going to give myself the allowance to use or is it a per person or is it a per event. You know, that’s something that hopefully we’re not just coming to at this point as we approach the holidays that we thought it through, given how last year played out. But nonetheless, it’s never too late. Even if we’re sitting here now in the early parts of the holiday season and we’re like, ah, I really want to do all these things, how do we set ourselves up? You know that budget really can prove right. You know, say this is how much for decorations, or this is how much for gifts. And if it’s a dollar amount, start with that dollar amount first and then put it by priorities. When I’m helping clients just with their overall general budget outside of the holidays, we do the same thing.
How much money do we have coming in? How much money do we think we’re going to need to spend? And then if there is extra, what are the priorities for that money? So I think that’s the key for us as we head into the holidays. It’s not to Grinch and feel like we can’t give, but more how can we give in ways that allow us to still have enjoyment with the holidays and not regret because of how much debt we know we’re building up.
Renee Fox: Yeah, I love that. That’s really great advice. I really like your perspective on, you know, the budget and having that kind of customized, whether that’s a budget for the season or a budget for each event, or per person. So, say if this is the first time that someone who’s listening is, starting a budget for the holiday season, what tips do you have for getting started and making sure it’s something that will work for them? And I like that approach of a diet—maybe it’s something we don’t always love but making it a good positive thing that will be a helpful resource.
Jody Brown: You know, I’m a believer of kind of looking at the past, you know, not because we can’t do new things, but look at the past years, how have you spent your money in the past? Has it been a case where perhaps, you know, for the younger children where there’s just so much joy with the holidays that they don’t need big ticket items? So, it could be a number of smaller items, you know, how have you spent in the past and look at the upcoming household needs that you might have outside of the holidays.
So that’s another thing, you know, okay, I really want to do these holiday things, but I know that we’re going to need a new water heater. I know we’re going to need a roof in the spring of next year. You know, how do we help, you know, approach the big picture along with the holidays? No one wants to give great gifts, but then end up having to eat Hamburger Helper.
And again, I’m not against Hamburger Helper, I’m more just trying to help people, you know, set themselves up for the right structure. And so, I think the key tip is to look at the past. How have you spent, look at the future for what things are coming. And then how can you structure all those various expenses? You know, personalizing the gifts does not mean you have to have a big price tag to get there. You can do a lot of things with a lower dollar amount just by looking at the individual and what would make a difference to them. This versus just a number of gifts.
Renee Fox: I love that. I love the perspective too of like looking at the past and looking forward. That’s very, very helpful information to take into the holiday season. I’ve heard feedback from people who come from large families who really have that pressure to make sure they have a gift for everyone. And sometimes there is pressure to expand or increase your budget. It can really be tempting to people in those situations.
Jody Brown: Yes. Again, holidays are great because of the family component, you know, and so you don’t want to downplay the fact that you have been blessed with this large family, but you also don’t want to feel that as a burden. And so I think the key is to talk to the other households. You know, much like I started off by saying often times a budget is viewed as a four-letter word, like a negative thing. Bringing that up with your other siblings might be something that they’ve been thinking of as well, but no one wanted to approach that taboo topic.
So, let’s bring it up. Could it be that you say, “Hey, let’s go with a dollar amount per gift, or let’s go with a theme, or let’s do little present pods.” Or perhaps we say, “Hey, let’s go in on a gift for mom and dad.” You know, lots of times, individuals that I work with as they age, they don’t need as many items. They’re probably just looking for more sentimental gestures. And so how can the family come up with some of those items as a whole? So, again, if you’re from a large family, you could draw a name. Perhaps you say, “Hey, let’s just put all of the men in one bucket, all the women in the other, or let’s come up with all of the siblings putting in, and then all the in-laws here, or all the grandchildren.” Then everyone brings an ornament. Or you know, the point would be, again, trying to figure out how the whole group can participate without putting those that it might be challenged with inflation being what it is right now to not being able to participate. So the group gifts, the age-appropriate drawings, and then again, just, you know, talking through this with each of the other households that are impacted in your family, I think could put everything on the table.
Renee Fox: Oh, that’s really helpful. Really great advice, and I think it’s a good time of year for people to really start those conversations. We still have a little bit of time. Everyone probably hasn’t done their shopping, so it’s very timely to start those conversations with extended family. And I really love the thought around the sentimental gifts that do have a lot of meaning. Some of the favorite gifts that I’ve received are in that nature. I think those are all great recommendations. Thank you. So, as we approach some of the big shopping days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, I know oftentimes, we see a lot of ads for deals and a lot of things are on sale around those major shopping days. What recommendations do you have for helping us not be tempted to go over budget during that time of year?
Jody Brown: Well, it’s very similar to going to the grocery store when you’re hungry. And again, I don’t mean to make this seem so simple, because it isn’t. We’ve all done it, right? We go in there thinking, I just need these six items and we leave with a cart full. You know? So, as we approach these big shopping days, they’re counting on us going in hungry, they’re counting on us going in going, oh, hey, I don’t really need this Roomba vacuum, but that seems like it’d be kind of cool. Let me get one. Oh hey, I don’t really need this, you know, jacket, but it might be neat to get. So go in much like, again, the grocery shopping go in with these are the things I need, or however you want to phrase that, but, you know, have a plan.
Not everything is a bargain, you know, just because they’re flashing it out and saying, hey, we’re only going to have this many sold in the next hour, in the next two hours, or at this price, you know, pause even. So even if it’s on your list before you go jumping in it, pause and do a price comparison. Is it really on sale or is it just there trying to build off of the enthusiasm, the excitement of, again, the Cyber Mondays or Black Fridays that are out there? So, my biggest thing would have a plan or a list. You know, what are those items? Try to avoid the impulsive items that you think are just on sale and you better grab them while they’re here and hot because that’s normally not going to play out to be in your favor in the long run.
Renee Fox: That’s really great advice. Really good. So, outside of spending money too, do you have some additional thoughts and recommendations of ways that we can give during the holiday season?
Jody Brown: Well, and I approached some of this earlier when I talked about experiences, but you know, I get it. Some people think that’s stale. But if you have younger children, for instance, one of the fun things that they like is still the whole like arts and crafts thing. You know, have them help build something. You know, it could be, let’s decorate a candle holder and we’re going to give all of the people that we want to give gifts to, these decorated or a memory box. And you say, here’s a memory box, grandma, grandpa, or aunt or uncle or whomever, and put some of the kids’ pictures on the outside and then perhaps they can start putting some memories in there.
Another great thing is just those, tried and true coupons. You know, you hand one to grandma and say, hey grandma, here’s a coupon. Not one that you cut out of the newspaper, but one that says, this is good for one dinner at Applebee’s with the grandkids, or this is good for one trip to the zoo. So it sounds silly, like those things might have just happened anyway, but I think that’s the key and, making it fun is that the kids are helping build that. Now, if your kids are more in the age of teenagers, I understand they might not be into it, but it could be something where you talk to the teenagers and you say, hey, you know, how about committing to doing a FaceTime with grandma and grandpa every Sunday for the next several weeks and then that’s your gift, and then figure it out.
But it’s the experiences that I think are going to come in those smaller, more creative ways that I get it can take more time sometimes than just running to a store and pulling out the visa, but I think they’ll pay off in the long run for everybody.
Renee Fox: Yeah, those are great, great examples. And I love that a lot of times those experience gifts keep giving throughout the year. So, it’s not like the one-time gift that you’re going to open on a holiday, but you’re actually going to keep receiving some of that joy throughout the year. And those are some really great examples. And I think there are so many creative out-of-the box things that we can do that we don’t often think about. Instead, we. think of purchasing those gifts, but those are really wonderful examples.
So let’s say we are working to pay some debt off from earlier this year. Maybe we took a big vacation and spent a little more than we intended. So, let’s say we’re starting this time of year already trying to pay off some debt. What recommendations do you have for just becoming debt free? Maybe we focus our holiday on creative, low expensive items, but we’re just, you know, trying to have a good start for wrapping up the end of the year without being in debt. Any recommendations you have would be great.
Jody Brown: So Renee, the step that I usually take first and foremost with people that come in, in a situation like this, whether it be for the holidays or just in general, is going back to that budget. And I know that’s so boring to say, but it really has to be where, how much money do we have coming in in the day right now where so many of us get our checks, deposit electronically? We may not even realize how much we get paid because. You know, it just goes into our checking or our savings. And then also how much do we spend, you know, looking back at what goes on, you know, is it that there’s certain bills that are auto paid, which is great, but do we know how much this bill is or that bill is? And so we get an understanding there of where we’re playing at.
I think the biggest mistake is when people try to set goals without understanding that foundation of their budget, they can set themselves up for major disappointment. And that’s unfortunate and frustrating. It’s like someone trying to lose weight without understanding where maybe some of their bad habits are coming in. They can exercise all they want, but if they don’t necessarily put away the pint ice cream before bed, it might not help. So, I hate to say it, but that’s where it starts. It’s not fun and you don’t have to go back months and months, but, you know, perhaps look at your last month. Where did the money go that I got in and, and what can I do to adjust that? Perhaps it’s, a little bit excessive when you go to Costco or to Target. The extra Quick Trip expenses when we get gas that we go into fill, and we grab these other items. So those aren’t me saying no, it’s just understanding where you’re at. And then I think once you understand where you’re at, you know what you can play with as far as for the holidays or what not.
It could be that perhaps you were really working hard to get out from a debt that you had from some summer vacation that the family went on, and so you’ve been paying two or three times the minimum on the credit card. I applaud that. That’s great. Especially with rising interest rates. However, if we only have so many dollars to go around, you might say, well, so I don’t put further money on that credit card at that super high rate. How about I go down to paying the minimum just for a little while and then use that extra money to help me get through the holidays without again adding more debt? Because again, back to the health analogy, you don’t want to diet Monday through Friday and then eat terribly over the weekend. It undoes all that you’ve already worked through. So there again, you start with your budget, you look at things that can be adjusted and, you try to plan from there. And it’s not easy. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it. We’d either all be losing weight, or we’d all be sitting on excess and savings. But I think it always comes back to understanding those kinds of elements and, and how that equation really can’t be changed unless we adjust one of the variables.
Renee Fox: That’s so important, and I love the comparison with nutrition and losing weight as well. I mean, financial wellness is such a big component of our overall wellbeing. And it does take that work and practice. So, some of our listeners may have that budget in place and have that good foundational work laid already. Often, we’re setting wellness goals for the year ahead, and so many people might have financial goals in mind. So, for those of us who are focused on increasing financial wealth in the new year, after they already have that foundation laid, what recommendations would you have for people in that situation. What are some ways they can start the new year strong with those goals in place and ready to work towards?
Jody Brown: I think the key with goals in any respect is going to be simplification. And that doesn’t mean that you can only, you know, do one or two. But I find that sometimes when we set too many, it gets over overwhelming and then we just fail on all of them. So as someone has their budget line and now, you’re looking into the new year and you really want to tackle it, you know, I kind of bring it back to three main things that I always try to tell people. It’s kind of like this third analogy I use. So, let’s say you have these dollars and you’re really going to try to take any excess you have.
Let’s just pretend you have an extra $300 every month, and your plan that you already put in place was going to be to put that all towards the credit card debt to get that debt gone. Well, that’s wonderful. However, because we single focused on it, we didn’t set up for any savings. So sure enough, life can be quite cruel, and we’ll get all that debt paid off and then something will happen, and it comes all right back. Instead of just simply saying, I’m going to put it all towards debt, I’m going to put it all towards savings or like many, I’m going to just live for the moment. You do it in thirds, so you take a hundred of that $300 and you say, you know what? I am going to put that towards the credit card extra, but I’m not going to put it all towards, I’m going to put a hundred dollars towards that and then I’m going to put a hundred dollars into savings, which I understand is frustrating. Because you might say, why am I letting my debt continue? And not just put 200 towards it. Well, because like I said, if we don’t have the savings, the debt’s not going to go anywhere.
When a next crisis comes around, it’s going to keep getting worse. And then for that other third, you know, life is too short. I do recognize that I have clients, unfortunately, that face challenges every single day. So you want to enjoy life, you know? So if there’s an extra $300, a hundred towards some debt, starting perhaps with your highest interest, a hundred dollars towards some savings that you can put away and trust it stays away, not put away, and then take out every month. So people I ask sometimes, do you save? Oh yeah, I put a hundred dollars in my savings account, and I look, and their savings account has maybe $50. Well, they put it in, but then they took out 50. Well then, how about they just say, they save 50. Then don’t set yourself up for that. But then, like I said, for that third hundred dollars, perhaps you allow yourself a treat. You know, maybe it’s once a month, you go out to the movies with the kids or whatever that might be.
So to me it’s again, reflecting on what you’re trying to accomplish and then really making sure to have a plan that sticks versus again just a diet, you know, things like that tend to not stick. You need to make those lifestyle changes so that the next time you get a raise, the next time you get your tax return, the next time somehow there’s extra money that is put in front of you. You don’t just look at it as a single focus. You try to say, my plan is always going to be this much here, this much here, this much here. And then you can accomplish those goals more realistically.
Renee Fox: I love it. That’s really good advice. Thank you. In addition to all the great recommendations that you’ve shared, are there resources particularly that you would like to call people to just to help with staying on a budget, avoiding holiday over spending, or planning for the year ahead?
Jody Brown: Yeah, I mean, Renee, I mean one of the key things that I always feel like in life is that, you know, we all look for that silver bullet, you know, what’s that one thing that we can turn to and, and I just don’t think it exists in the world. I think whatever your problems might be, you know, there’s multiple ways to approach them, and I think the key is to find out what method works for you. So perhaps you think about what have you done well in your life? Perhaps you have approached a good healthy lifestyle where you’ve stopped some bad habits and you’re eating healthy, or you’re working out or whatever.
Okay, well what did it take for you to do that and then try to mirror that when it comes to your financials. You know, Summit Credit Union has an array of tools available and so and so do a lot of other sites out there. I mean, you could Google financial resources and the list would be overwhelming. Find the tool though that works for you, not the tool that your neighbors have that worked for them, not the tool that your in-law said works for them. Find the tool that works for you. If you’re still a paper and pencil person, fine. Print off a budget. Hold yourself to it once a week. Write down on the receipts what you got. If you’re someone who likes apps, well, there are tons of apps out there, and again, if you go to summit credit union.com, there are a ton of them out there. So there are the worksheets, there are the apps. There’s even lining yourself up with financial coaches. You just have to find the method that works because if you’re someone who’s a paper and a pencil and someone else just sends you this app that works for them, you might try it.
You might even fill it out once or twice, but it’s likely not going to stick. I just come back to, I think you have to find those tools and resources in life that fit your method of change. Uh, there’s no shortage of these tools because there’s no shortage of problems, so don’t go into it thinking you’re the only one doing this. Please understand, there are a lot of people facing challenges for a lot of reasons, whether it be bad choices they’ve made, or bad luck they’ve approached, and you just have to find the right tools that fit you and your method of.
Renee Fox: That’s excellent advice. I love that there’s really no cookie cutter approach for any type of wellness initiative. I love that and I think that’s extremely important advice for people to really find what works for them. That is absolutely great, and we have a link to Summit Credit Union if any of our listeners want to learn more and explore the resources that you mentioned that are available. Wonderful recommendation. Do you have any final parting words for our listeners?
Jody Brown: You know, Renee, first I want to thank you again for this opportunity. I feel that there’s this cloud over people that have financial problems. People take it as it’s something personal. I get a lot of people that will come in and apologize for where they’re sitting at today, and I think that’s fine if they feel the need to do that. But it’s more of a case that we don’t know why you got here, but we do know that you’re here today. So how do we look forward? And I think that’s the key in life is, you know, let’s look forward. Learn from our mistakes. Understand what we were spending, but you know, the holidays aren’t something to have us put even more of a burden on ourselves. You’re not alone in this. Find the resources, find the budget, find the calling that can help you put the things in alignment so you can enjoy without all that regret, and also put yourself on the right path going forward.
Renee Fox: Incredible advice. Thank you so much for your expertise and your time today, Jody. We really appreciate it.
Jody Brown: You’re welcome. And thank you again, Renee.
Renee Fox: Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you enjoyed this show. Well, Wisconsin Program participants. To earn credit for listening to this podcast for your wellbeing activity, visit WebMDhealth.com/well Wisconsin and complete the steps to self-report this activity. You can also find our survey transcripts and previous episodes at webmdhealthservices.com/WellWisconsinRadio. If you’re listening to this podcast on your platform of choice, be sure to subscribe so you will never miss an episode. Thanks for tuning in.